Though it might be the last time we see it all season, the moment certainly called for it.
On Thursday, following his first practice with his new team, Kendrick Perkins substituted his menacing scowl with a few mini smiles.
Try as he might, the Oklahoma City Thunder center just couldn't hide his happiness.
Perkins had just returned to the court with a full complement of teammates for the first time since Feb. 22, when he sprained the MCL in his left knee in a game against Golden State. Two days later, the Thunder acquired him in a four-player trade with Boston.
Thursday's session was the biggest step forward Perkins has made in his journey toward taking his place as the Thunder's starting center. And the big man was pleased with his first practice.
“It was kind of better than what I expected,” Perkins said. “I was going all-out, testing it out. My knee is fine. It wasn't bothering me at all.”
Not even the slightest discomfort?
“Not today,” he said. “Thank God.”
Perkins is officially listed as day-to-day. Thunder coach Scott Brooks did not rule out Perkins for Friday night's game against Detroit. Brooks added that there is no set number of practices he would like Perkins to participate in before playing him.
“It's going to come down to how he feels and what he's picked up on. And we all have to be comfortable,” Brooks said. “But I thought (Thursday) was a good start. It was good to see him out there. Our players were excited to see him out there. We'll see how he feels (Friday) and go through the shootaround and go from there.”
Following Friday night's game, the Thunder has a three-game road trip starting at Cleveland on Sunday, then going to Washington on Monday and ending with a nationally televised game at Miami on Wednesday. The Thunder begins a six-game home stand next Friday against Charlotte.
Though Perkins said he wants to play Friday night, he expressed patience and reiterated his long-term health is more important than suiting up with a focus on the short-term benefits.
“As long as I can get about 15, 16 games with the guys, I think it's cool before the playoffs,” said Perkins, adding he doesn't have a target date for a return.
By all accounts, Perkins is close.
Before Thursday, Perkins had been limited to individual drills and 1-on-1 work with assistant coach Mark Bryant. During Thursday's practice, however, Perkins participated fully in 3-on-0 and 3-on-2 drills, as well as some 5-on-5 action.
Perkins said his timing was off in certain areas, mostly when he had to set screens, roll to the basket or find the open man for an assist. But, perhaps most encouraging, Perkins didn't have any trouble getting off the floor, saying he even finished a few spinout lob passes for dunks. Perkins also pushed himself through fatigue and rust without requesting a substitution.
“I'd probably give myself about a six today on a scale of one to 10,” Perkins said. “But I was impressed how it went. I was a little rusty in some spots but it went real well.”
Brooks declined to use Perkins' same grading scale to evaluate his first performance but said Perkins was “really good.”
“He's hard on himself,” Brooks said. “I think every competitive guy is hard on himself. I'd be concerned if anybody on our team gave themselves a 10. I think you always push yourself and he did that.
“He gave us good energy. You could tell he brings good experience. He's a communicator. Defensively, he knows what we're doing. Offensively, he's still picking up the plays. But we went through some sets and he's a quick learner.”
For his first day, Perkins said he “got a lot out of it.”
Now the Thunder is hoping to soon get a lot out of him.
“We're pretty good right now,” said guard James Harden. “And with him on the court, we're going to be even better, especially on the defensive end rebounding and guarding other teams' bigs.”